Roll Over to Bodie: A Well-Preserved Ghost Town

Rollin’ with Russ and Lori
By Russ and Lori Tice

California is home to several honest-to-goodness ghost towns, rich in history and culture that you can visit and enjoy. One of America’s best preserved ghost towns is in Bodie, California.

Bodie is not on what we would consider an RV road. Russ and Lori can attest to this, as we once traversed the rough dirt road to Bodie via Class C motor home. Some do make the drive in an RV, but Russ and Lori suggest a vehicle appropriate for the rough and sometimes uneven dirt roads.

At the intersection of US Highway 395 and Highway 270, we have provided GPS coordinates for you: N 38.1753; W -119.1946. Highway 270 will take you to Bodie. Road conditions vary, and weather changes can be sudden. This road qualifies as an adventure. At an altitude of 8,379 feet, gold was discovered in 1859. Word spread fast, as gold fever caught many a miner seeking riches far away from home.

Bodie was once home to nearly 12,000 residents in 1860, but the gold started to play out in the next years. 1886 saw the resident numbers at around 1,400 or so. Two fires years later destroyed many of the buildings, yet so many remain today. What we have today is Bodie State Park. Many of the buildings are as they were, in what is called “arrested decay.” This means that the buildings are not restored, yet treated so they will stay close to how they actually are for many years to come.

Bodie had a reputation of being a wild town during its heyday. Big money from gold profits meant better construction funds from some of the well-to-do who assisted in providing funds for that construction. Some of the buildings remain today, and are well worth the visit. Visiting the store, you can see authentic Bodie items and marvel at the building’s interior. A church remains, as do stables, and a must-see is the stamp mill. Several other buildings remain in this vast expanse of what you can see was an enormous town at one time.

 

A building is seen on a stormy day at the Bodie Historic State Park. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
 

The church in Bodie. PHOTO BY THOMAS FANGHAENEL VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

 

 

Downtown Bodie is seen on a sunny day, showing off the buildings in
a state of “arrested decay.” PHOTO BY RUSS TICE

 

Timber was delivered daily from the day’s treacherous roads, as the wood was needed to shore up mines and provide coal for the town. Over 1,900 men were employed by the timber industry alone in Bodie during its day.

This is where Russ and Lori want you to look up and notice the power lines in Bodie. Can you imagine the excitement as the residents experiences true electric power for the first time? Again, big money brought power lines from far away to reach Bodie. Lighting and electrical devices made prospecting even more lucrative.

Parking is generous at Bodie, and walking throughout is mostly gentle hills and wide streets. Walk as little or as much as you would like. With plenty to see on the short walks, you will not be disappointed. Walking to the stamp mill is a bit of a hike, but nice to see if you are up to it. There are no services provided at Bodie. Really think about what you may want to bring along on this adventure. Bring water, sunscreen, food, and any appropriate clothing. The sun really can heat up your melon, so be sure to bring hats.

Wildlife can be seen, which is cool on a slower driven dirt road. Mule deer are good to watch for, and pronghorn antelope at times can be seen on higher points. If you think you saw a chicken cross the road, it was probably a sage grouse.

You know, there is something to be said for a rough dirt road. Take your time, enjoy the scenery, share with family and friends, and go and see what used to be. Bodie can deliver that. Check out this treasure of a town, head for Bodie, and Let’s Get Rollin’!

To contact Russ and Lori, email them at russ.lori.rollin@gmail.com.

 

Downstairs in the IOOF Building, which was used as a gymnasium. PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS